Women of Color in Legal Education: Challenging the Presumption of Incompetence

12 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2014 Last revised: 8 Aug 2016

Date Written: April 10, 2014


Female law professors of color have become the canaries in the academic mine whose plight is an early warning of the dangers that threaten legal education and the future of the legal profession. As legal education is restructured in response to declining enrollments, tenure itself is coming under fire, and downsizing and hiring freezes are becoming more common. Female law professors of color, who tend to be concentrated at middle- and lower-tier law schools, are particularly vulnerable. But this vulnerability may foreshadow the predicament of all but the most elite law faculty if academic employment becomes increasingly precarious. This article discusses the importance of faculty diversity to the health of the legal profession, and examines the barriers that female law professors of color encounter in the academic workplace. Drawing upon the author’s co-edited book, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González & Angela P. Harris eds., 2012), the article sets forth best practices that can be adopted by academic leaders to remove these barriers, to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate, and to ensure that the upheavals in legal education do not sabotage these efforts. The article includes recommendations for the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and US News & World Report.

Keywords: legal education, faculty, critical race theory, feminist theory, gender, race, class, intersectionality, stereotyping, tokenism, inequality, women of color, unconscious bias, identity, neoliberalism, corporatization, affirmative action, discrimination, tenure, accreditation, American Bar Association

JEL Classification: J7, I24, J115, J116

Suggested Citation

Gonzalez, Carmen G., Women of Color in Legal Education: Challenging the Presumption of Incompetence (April 10, 2014). 61 The Federal Lawyer 48 (July 2014) ; Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 14-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2470660

Carmen G. Gonzalez (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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